Reduce, Reuse, Reconsider

How often does your brain feel overstuffed? Too many missed appointments, forgotten instructions, unfinished tasks, or unread email, never mind all that paperwork you still haven’t filled out? In this day and age of incessant obligations, it comes as no surprise that all of us keep running out of mental RAM.

What to do with an overstuffed brain, though? Treat it like a sluggish web browser: Clear the cache, save your work in progress, and give it a long overdue reboot. How? By performing a “brain dump:”

  • First, take a pad of paper. Long-form writing works better here than typing.
  • Second, set a time for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible.
  • Third, spend that entire time doing nothing but writing out everything that your brain has been trying to remember: every to-do list item, every pending reply, every book you’ve been meaning to read, every repair you’ve meant to do around the house, anything at all.

Now, no checking social media or otherwise distracting yourself during those 30 minutes. The entire exercise boils down to sitting with the guilt, anxiety, nervousness, and other emotions tied up in those unfinished tasks. By writing everything down, you give your conscious mind a chance to process those feelings and give your subconscious permission to let those tasks go and to entrust them to the paper instead.

  • Fourth, give yourself a break. You’ve just performed an exhausting mental effort!
  • Fifth, survey the results. Transcribe the tasks that are simultaneously the most high-value and time-sensitive into another system for follow-up, such as a Bullet Journal.
  • Finally, start on those important tasks!

With the rest of the lower-priority tasks out of your head and on the paper, you will have all the more mental energy and focus to spare for the ones that matter most. Seeing all your tasks laid out will make finding those valuable tasks far easier, too. You may discover that many of the things that your subconscious held onto no longer matter or weren’t worth remembering in the first place. But the only way to be sure is to get it all out of your head and onto the page. Time to get writing!